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TAX… What’s the point?

Tax avoidance. It may be legal, but is it ethical or moral?

inthewordsofnevyn

Yes folks, I’m supposed to be writing an essay… Which is why I’m on here ;)

Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick…

So, Tax*. What’s the point right? Why do I have to keep putting my hand in my pocket just for somebody else to benefit? We’ve all said something similar… Now, don’t tell you haven’t… And don’t go assuming I’m accusing you of being *ist about this… Alright, let me put it this way… TRIDENT. There you go… Why should you put your hand in your pocket (tax for the slow of uptake) just for somebody else (The makers of trident) to benefit?

So, yes… there are areas that lots of people agree that tax shouldn’t be used for… Bombing Syria? Building fences in Calais? Keeping the Royals? Paying MPs ‘expenses’? Building specially adapted homes? (One of those things I really DO believe the money from my…

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Urine Testing Benefit Claimants

Urine Test oil rigger meme

So it looks like this meme is doing the social networking rounds again.  On the face of it, it seems quite a reasonable request – who would want to pay someone to sit around and do nothing at all each and every day of their lives when your hard-earned tax money is subsidising it?

That’s not exactly the case though.  All this meme does is demonise those who are on welfare benefit, and note the meme does not specify any type of welfare payment, just ‘benefits’.

Furthermore, this person works on an oil rig and therefore works in a high-risk environment surrounded by heavy machinery and the co-workers rely on each other for safety and social interaction.  Of course he is urine-tested, as per the private drilling contractor’s work agreement between employer and employee.

Let’s break this meme down:

  1. Not every worker has to pass a urine test in order to be employed; indeed our elected representatives who run this country don’t have to undergo a urine test to see if they are fit to make decisions which affect all of us. (this is purely for entertainment value, honest: George Osborne. That is all. )
  1. We ALL benefit from the taxes every single one of us (even those on benefit – VAT for example) pays. So why single out one category of people to force them to submit to urine testing simply to receive enough money to barely live on?
  1. Some people take drugs to self-medicate, for many reasons including but not limited to as dealing with chronic pain conditions, depression, mental health problems and so on. Subjecting those who are on Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) to urine tests will not help their situation and may exacerbate it.
  1. Some people take drugs because they like them recreationally. Others drink alcohol.  For many, being on benefit is a soul-destroying desperately difficult life and boredom is a massive problem.  Why begrudge what little enjoyment they may have?  It is their money once they receive it and no-one has the right to police how one spends one’s own money.
  1. Many people take drugs and/or and still manage to be contributing members of society:
  • Many still work full or part-time, so this meme discriminates against those who are unable to work or do not work for whatever reason.
  • Those who cannot work at all may still fulfil voluntary roles which are vital to the ongoing care of our society. Is it a coincidence that the poor and more in need you are the more likely you are to volunteer and/or give to charities/social causes?  I don’t believe so.
  1. The amount of one’s tax which goes towards welfare benefit claimants who do not work is roughly 25% of overall tax and National Insurance paid, see graph below. Of that, only 5% goes towards those on JSA.  All other payments go on various other benefits, see graph below.
where your tax goes

Originally posted by The Telegraph, a right wing UK broadsheet newspaper.

Welfare benefits-where they go

Source: The Institute for Fiscal Studies*

There’s a reason the government changed the name of Social Security to Welfare Benefit.  It was not a marketing ploy.  This change of wording takes it from a social contract ensuring the most vulnerable are taken care of in our society to a payment given to those whose welfare requires a bit of help but is most definitely not something people should choose to be on and is something to be mildly ashamed of; in the same way ‘receiving charity’ is seen as a superior being condescending to an inferior person in need by many.

Benefit errors due to fraud and/or claimant and/or official error stands at 2.1% and has done so for many years, according to the government’s own statistics.**   The statistic is not broken down further, so a generous assessment is 1%.  Even so, this meme is not about what one might consider unfair or fraudulent claims, but is about judging the behaviours and policing the lifestyles of unemployed-yet-considered-able-to-work benefit claimants.  It is about enacting a policy of discrimination against those who claim benefits in order to survive whilst trying to get back into work.

“Can we imagine how much money the government would save…?” asks the meme.  Given the freely available information anyone can research from creditable sources, very little.  Assuming benefits are withdrawn for those who test positive, what then?  It will not cause an addict to stop using, nor will it suddenly find work for those who were on the benefit and now have it withdrawn.  What it will cause is more suffering for the sake of an extremely small amount of money, especially when you factor in the administrative costs of these drug tests.  It is possible that it would end up costing the tax payer more than it would save them.

Finally, what about false positives on drug tests?  Many over-the-counter medications and even basic foodstuffs can skew the results.***

I’m sick and tired of the demonisation of benefit claimants by the government, and all this meme does is perpetuate that demonisation.  Making an assumption about a class of people based on personal unsubstantiated opinion is prejudice.  Don’t perpetuate it.

* http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7762

**https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/371459/Statistical_Release.pdf

***http://www.medicaldaily.com/drug-screening-6-everyday-things-trigger-false-positive-drug-test-358582 AND http://www.askdocweb.com/falsepositives.html

 

TOLERANCE IS NOT ENOUGH!

It seems that Black people in the United States are under siege from their fellow country-dwellers, including those sworn to serve and protect, simply because of the colour of their skin, with gender taken into consideration for those who don’t fit the cisgender male binary.

Islamic people across the world are feeling the necessity of apologising for the behaviours of people they have never met, never spoken with, whose beliefs are not their own and do not reflect even the slightest cursory glance at the Qu’ran.  All so their presence will be tolerated.

Women are murdered because of their gender; transgender women at a higher rate than cisgender women for… no reason at all other than fear and hate and self-lack-of-awareness of others.  Sexual violence is visited upon them, because of male entitlement and presumed desire for sex at least 95% of the waking day (my guesstimate of the assumption, I hasten to add, but the oft told “every seven seconds a man thinks of sex” came from somewhere).

Non-heterosexual presenting/living people find themselves in fear of being beaten simply because they love and lust in ways that are not aimed entirely at the opposite binary sex.

Violence, whether it be verbal, physical, state-sponsored or the well-spring of some sort of community group or ideology, is the response many receive to their perceived ‘difference’.  Instantly memes and quotes pop up across social media and throughout society pleading for tolerance of such difference.

Not good enough, say I.

You tolerate a bad smell, if you can’t do anything about removing the source.  You tolerate bad manners, if it would be impolite or impolitic to correct them.  You tolerate bad service in a restaurant (especially if you are English, where such politeness is a congenital defect).  You tolerate ignorance, if the person is incapable of developing a necessary level of knowledge.

You tolerate bad weather, for goodness sake!

What you do not do is tolerate the innate differences between people.  That implies a wrongness about that which you do not like and cannot change, and is one step from actively discriminating against those differences.  Tolerance means avoiding that which you do not like, cutting yourself off, forever maintaining the barriers because the difference is not what you like.

It’s not all about you.

Anyone with any form of privilege (which basically means anyone who is identified with and/or identifies as part of a group which benefits from the inculcated positive discrimination within societies) benefits from bigotry.  It’s not a choice to benefit, it simply is.  The only way to fight discrimination is to actively address it; to listen to the voices of the oppressed and follow their lead and to work to comprehend what exactly it is that they are saying.  Men listen to women, cisgender people listen to transgender people, white people listen to BAME people (UK preferred term)/people of colour (USA preferred term), able-bodied people listen to disabled/differently-abled people, heterosexual people listen to those of the spectrum of sexuality outside that definition.  Not only listen but actually make the effort to understand and address their own prejudices, which we ALL have, and live their lives every day in addressing this.

Tolerance is for the status quo.  Tolerance is for maintaining the prejudices within social norms.  Tolerance is for bigots, and for the record, bigotry is not difference of opinion, but an act of discrimination whether actively or passively expressed.  Tolerance is always directed by the privileged towards the discriminated against.  Really, it is those who suffer under such benevolent tolerated bigotry who are forced to truly tolerate their lot, for fear of reaction.

It’s fine to tolerate things which you cannot change which irk you, but not to tolerate people for their innate differences.  That implies a change to those differences would be desirable.  It’s incredible how quickly intolerance by the discriminated-against for the toleration of themselves by the privileged will turn that to active bigotry.

Accepting the differences and acknowledging they have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU and have no effect on your lives, and not cutting yourself off from that difference, is key.  Once acceptance is part of your vocabulary and everyday action, then the differences shrink and the idiocy of maintaining discrimination on the basis of those differences becomes unacceptable.

ACCEPTANCE, NOT TOLERANCE.

Should be standard for all.

Always a work in progress; for all including me.

That is the way forward, and it is incumbent on those in privileged positions to recognise and act on that.  Tolerance is a step on the path, but it is not the final destination.

Or stay privileged and keep fighting the existence of difference.  Only tolerate that which is not yours to a certain point.  That’s why we keep having wars, isn’t it?

Mental

my truth, whatever the real truth may be

my truth, whatever the real truth may be

Today is World Mental Health Day 2015.  I have read brave, beautiful, searingly honest, positive and negative testaments to the strength of the human mind on Facebook all day.  It has brought me to tears of hope, anguish and fear, but always back to hope.  Because that is what today is all about; hope for recovery and/or remission, hope for the freedom to be open about one’s health without stigma or fear or anger, hope that the positive will come again and the miasmic confusing fog will lift and thought will tessellate and not dissipate, hope when the millstone is lifted and the rocks crushing the chest will turn to sand and one can breathe again, for a while at least.

I have written about my own issues before, in July 2012.  I remain in the ongoing process of recovery, this time.  Each time I learn more about myself, my triggers and how best to treat and return to a state of health.  For everyone this path is different, and for everyone this path is different every time if their condition is cyclical or remittent as mine is.  Even permanent conditions require review and maintenance as our bodies mould and develop through time.

There is no shame in mental imbalance or health or however the person living with the issues prefers to define it.  There should be no stigma.  We are not fodder for horror movies and since when is a dramatic depiction of a mental illness in such films to be taken as factually based?  The ‘Psycho’ or the ‘Schizo’ are archetypes which do not bear up to scrutiny yet the fear imbued in us by those words is the essence of the othering and endangering of the people who deal with health issues which include psychotic episodes and/or schizophrenic attacks.  They are infinitely more danger to themselves, and are in more danger from the extremes of prejudice against those with mental health issues (my preferred term).

I live with fear at the moment.  Fear which is both rational and irrational but I cannot tell when the ‘ir’ comes in.  There is basis for my fear, medical and recorded.  I was about to come off medication when diagnosed; punched in the throat I one-eightied my well-being immediately.  Most of the time, I am forgetful which is good.  Sometimes I am thoughtful, which is good/bad.  Then again… always the then again.

Empathy is essential in those around people dealing with issues and as 1 in 4 are, you will know someone in this category.  Empathy is built by showing it.  Empathy is in action, not only reaction.  Bring the topic up if possible, make it clear you empathise.

Stigma is like tar. Feathers of scorn, fearful glances, quietened conversation and nervous giggles stick and build up and make the burden of caring and making people feel okay or maintaining a denial smother the work of moving toward health.  Empathy will glide like oil to smooth the tar free and leave people to carry the weight of themselves only.

So why am I writing this?  Compulsion, I think.  Confronting fear, even if it is not the same one.  Putting my words where my mind is.  Maintaining the process of my own mind in breaking down a barrier so that hopefully, if this is shared, it may help break down someone else’s.  I don’t know if it is any good, but that isn’t important.  It’s my truth.

I guess I’m sharing because, really, we are all a bit mental, aren’t we?

To follow up, try these:

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/get-help/mental-health/

I’m In LABOUR!

No, this is not an announcement of pending en-childment.  I keep telling you, dear reader, I am aunternal, not maternal – my womanhood is not solely resident in my uterine area!

The title means I’ve joined up, signed on, put my money where my not inconsiderably vocal mouth is… yes, I am now a card-carrying (literally, lovely red membership card with my name on it AND EVERYTHING! It’s like when I joined the Famous Five Club but not quite as good as when I got my Blue Peter Badge) member of the Labour Party.

This was not an easy decision.  I have never been a member of any political party before, and I wrestled with my conscience about this decision for a long considered time.  I still do, and I think it is right that I do so.  A brief glance at previous blog posts will show that:

  • I don’t believe we actually live in a democratic society;
  • I believe in policy politics rather than party politics;
  • I believe we need a proportional representation electoral system;
  • I have been very vocal and literal (in the written word sense) about my support of the Green Party.

All of which would tend towards me NOT joining the Labour Party.

However, and although I still stand by all the points above, I have joined the Labour Party and it is as a direct result of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, the policies and beliefs he has put forward which are a fundamental return to the roots of the Labour Party and what it should, could and now (hopefully) will stand for.

Access the link for more in-depth information, although this is grim enough.

Access the link for more in-depth information, although this is grim enough.

What it all boils down to is too many people are dying and suffering as a direct result of the policies incepted by the ConDem alliance and the current Conservative government.  The government statistics were finally released after the DWP and Ian Dunkedin-Shit Duncan-Smith as Minister being taken to court over a period of four years for refusing to release the information, showing the rise.  The previous statistics showed over 10,600 people died after being taken off incapacity benefit under the ConDems.

Some of these policies took root in New Labour and, as many have said before about this sea change in party policies, I did not turn away from the Labour Party, it betrayed and turned away from me. It spurned us when it became ‘New Labour’ and embraced the damaging destructive policies of profit-before-person and formed a dysfunctional relationship with an increasingly inhumane capitalist ideology.

It will take too long and too many more people will die before the Green Party can be anything more than a coalition partner in any future government.  There are too many people for whom the only voting option for a left-leaning let alone left-wing choice is the Labour Party.  Now is the time, under Jeremy Corbyn, for Labour to mount an honest, principled fight for the rights of and the living conditions of the intersectionally identified and identifying working person.

He’s already started, although the biased media would not let you know that.  It’s no surprise the media is biased; media in the mainstream exists as a profit-driven capitalist business model so they are not going to support anything which may take away their tax avoiding existence!  No more clearly was it shown than in the general election coverage earlier this year.   How many of the owners of our print/on-line mainstream media have tax havens off-shore? It’s in their interest to keep the status quo, and to push the right wing ideology.

Don’t forget, we all pay taxes, even those on claiming some form of benefit, through VAT on bought products for example.  Furthermore, the majority of those on benefit also work, so tax payers are subsidising businesses to pay lower wages.   Landlords receive housing benefit which perpetuates the high rents which in turn forces poorer people out of their communities and support systems, breaking social units down and making people more isolated and easier to exploit.

Capitalism is built on a system of dividing and driving down the wages of labourers and devaluing work in order to maintain and increase profits.  That is what it is about so we cannot be surprised that those with an interest in profit will support those perpetuating the system by which profit is made.

The problem with that is that the status-symbol, item-owning aspirational society that creates is not accessible to the majority of people.  Competition that capitalism relies upon won’t let it.  In order to maintain the competition, divides or inequalities have to be created and people have to be pitted against one another with the esoteric promise that they too can become rich, successful, status-symbol item-owning ‘winners’.

Before the 1920s, pink was the boys colour and blue was for girls. Gender is a social construct, fact!

Before the 1920s, pink was the boys colour and blue was for girls. Gender is a social construct, fact!

The pro-capitalist ideology was never more clearly shown in the criticism Jeremy Corbyn received regarding the appointment of his shadow cabinet ministers – all of a sudden the rabidly anti-equality press became virtuous purveyors of feminism in pointing out that none of the ‘top four’ ministerial posts had gone to women.  Well, that is only true if you believe those four (including his own post of Leader) are as listed.  The criticism only works if you believe that the shadow ministerial positions for Health, Education or Justice, for example, are not as important as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary or Home Office.  I don’t believe this.  I believe Health, Education and Justice are all equally important if not more so at the moment, and I believe that a 16 women to 15 men ratio is a damn fine start!

I still stand by my beliefs that we do not live in a democracy, that we need proportional representation, and that policy driven politics are what we need over party driven politics.  I believe we need a system in which we are not valued by what we own and our wealth, but by how we exist within society to the best of our abilities.  Equality does not mean ‘same’, but more ‘same opportunity’.  Our principles are completely screwed up at the moment, quite frankly.

I believe in a non-heirarchical system of cooperative governing within smaller communities, ultimately, but that is not going to happen any time soon and there are too many people suffering and dying for me to wait until we do have a people-before-profit egalitarian system in place.

That’s why I joined the Labour Party.  I need to act and I now have a Party I feel I can believe in and through which I can be useful to the wider populace.  That does not mean I will stop criticising, stop agitating for change and stop questioning.  I also believe it is vital that continues and is fundamental to any political system.  I still question myself and always will, but for the first time since before Thatcher (and I was too young to really remember before that) I actually have hope that positive change could happen, might happen, and I want to do what I am able to help that change come about.

I'm standing with Corbyn and the Labour Party; it's time for a positive change.

I’m standing with Corbyn and the Labour Party; it’s time for a positive change.

Spooning Myself

One spoon, two spoons, three spoons, four. Five spoons, six spoons, damn I dropped them on the floor!

One spoon, two spoons, three spoons, four.
Five spoons, six spoons, damn I dropped them on the floor!

I was contemplating whether to do a blog explaining the Spoon Theory and how it relates to my energy levels, finding a life balance and such-like when I found this graphic on my Facebook news feed, from the wonderful ‘Spoon Shortage’.

Well, this was the shortest blog post ever…  Kidding!  Whilst that graphic explains one single day, every person who deals with a chronic long-term condition which causes pain/mobility problems and/or other limiting condition will know that each individual has a different experience (even with the same diagnosis) and that this graphic is great as a one-off, but really, it’s FAR too simple.  Let me explain, using 12 spoons as a jumping off point as above.

Above would describe a normal work day for me, in which all spoons are used but none are left over and none have been borrowed from the day before or saved up to be used at a later date.  So, that day is over.  What about tomorrow?

Same again?  It should be because I am working full-time Monday to Friday (yes, people with chronic pain conditions/disabilities can work full-time; it’s not one-size-fits-all like the media, government and anyone with no experience seems to think) so you’d think so, but no.

Every day is different.  It starts from going to sleep.  So, was it a good night’s sleep, or did I struggle to nod off?  Remember, the starting point is 12 spoons, so:

Struggle – 2 spoons used before waking – leaves 10.

Easy sleep – 1 spoon used before waking – leaves 11.

Okay, then to getting ready and out of the door to work – how is my mobility?  Do I need my walking stick?  I don’t eat till I get to work, but my medications at this point don’t require a full stomach so I’m okay there.  Am I at a 2 out of 10 pain level (that’s normal, every day for me – I am always in pain but you get used to it) or is it higher – 5 or 6?  If it’s 7 or above it’s a sick day from work so we can discount that.

Okay (I’m going to have to start using bullet points):

  • Struggle to sleep but not in too much pain means 2 spoons used on the journey to work. That leaves 8 spoons left.
  • Struggle and in pain means 3 spoons used on the journey therefore 7 spoons are left.
  • Easy sleep but in pain when waking means so 8 spoons left.
  • Easy sleep and not too much pain when waking means 9 spoons are left.

I almost always struggle to stay asleep so have started to discount that from my spoon counting.  This may be an error.

Sometimes I struggle to sleep AND wake throughout the night – that starts me off at a deficit of 4 spoons so I’m at 8 spoons by the time I wake.  If I’m in pain of level 4 or more, game over, work is not happening.  Luckily this is still very rare.

You will see from the bullet points I then have to assess how I am physically and predict from a basis of knowledge of my body how many spoons are left and how many I will potentially use throughout the day.

I’m not even at mid-morning yet.

My work is sedentary, desk-based but responsible and I have a very supportive firm.  I am able to work the odd hour of overtime if needed, and they are always very solicitous about my welfare.  I am very fortunate in this; I don’t actually know of any other person dealing with life-limiting long-term chronic conditions who has this level of support at work.  However, every single day takes 3 spoons out of me if I am not in pain or at a level 2.  The pain may increase throughout the day which ups the spoon removal to 4 or even 5.

This means I am left with anything from:

  • Struggle to sleep and stay asleep/wake in pain at 6 spoons/pain increases to 5 spoons = 14 spoons and I’m having to borrow spoons from tomorrow to get home, or take four painkillers which each give a spoon back, getting me back to 10 spoons. 2 left for the rest of the day.
  • Easy sleep/no pain on waking/no pain increase throughout the day = 6 spoons left for the rest of the day. This is GOOD but is also very rare.  Generally I have trouble staying asleep.
  • Most commonly I have an easy sleep but struggle to stay asleep and wake throughout the night. I wake up with the alarm clock not in too much pain, with the average of 3 spoons used.  That means by the time I leave work I have used another three spoons, so I am left with 6 spoons to go home with.  This is good.  However, the lack of sleep has left me teetering on the edge of losing another spoon, so I need to be wary and try to keep one back, just in case.
This bag had NO walking stick and was neither pregnant nor old and should not have taken up the seat! How RUDE!

This bag had NO walking stick and was neither pregnant nor old and should not have taken up the seat! How RUDE!

Okay, so the journey home will take off another spoon, maybe two, depending on whether I have to stand on the commute or someone notices my walking stick and lets me sit.  This does not always happen.  This photo shows what is a fairly common sight on my commute.

Bags CLEARLY need the seat more than a disabled person/old person/anyone with a pulse.

So, by the time I am home from work I am anywhere between borrowing spoons from tomorrow to having 5 left for the rest of the day.

The further it gets through the working week, the more tired I get which has a knock-on effect on my spoon level.  Friday will typically be 2 spoons less than Monday.  I very rarely make plans on a Friday, as it is most likely I will have to cancel them.

I have to think ahead when planning – do I have anything arranged for the weekend?  Better not do anything in the week then, as that will mean borrowing spoons so I won’t have any available for the weekend.  If I do have an arrangement, better not make plans for either weekend surrounding it, as that will cause problems which may mean I cannot work during the week.  Where exactly am I with regard to spoons spent/left?  Quickly assessing in my head; can I take some painkillers and borrow the spoons they give me?  Will the side effects of those painkillers be too much; when did I last take the pills so I can assess the possible impact?  All these go through my head when making plans.

Sometimes, of course, I throw caution to the wind and just go out and have fun, regardless of the consequences.  Those consequences still come, and I may have to borrow extensively on spoons and hope I held over some to pass onto the future.  If not, oh well, many painkillers and a weekend in bed should help level me out again.

It’s a constantly changing balancing act.  Spoon theory is complicated, and different for every person who lives with a chronic condition (in my case, three, each with different, interlinked impacts on my life planning).

I was considering drawing a graph to try and explain it.  Having re-read this blog, I don’t think I could.  Just imagine a bowl of spaghetti with numbers randomly attached to it.  That’s close enough, I reckon.

Please share this blog if you have chronic conditions and/or know someone living with chronic pain etc.  It may help you or those around you understand why sometime a last minute cancellation can’t be helped, and why all the planning in the world is useless if you simply ran out of spoons.

Thank you.

Oh My Deities, I’m In Labour!

Well, that will confuse anyone looking for a new parent blog.  I remain and shall always be a child-free zone.  However, I appear to have registered to vote in the Labour party leadership election which has surprised me as much as anyone else, not least because of the passion I feel for the party if my chosen leader is elected.  Even more surprising to me because I am a Green Party person who helped campaign for them in the last general election.

The next Labour Party leader, I hope.

The next Labour Party leader, I hope.

So who is this person for whom I speak so vociferously and about whom I blog?  Why, Jeremy Corbyn of course!

He is a Socialist and staunch advocate of the values for which the Labour Party was originally formed.  New Labour under and post-Blair has destroyed the Party from the inside and continues to do so, most clearly evidenced throughout the leadership campaigns of the three other candidates Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, the first two of whom actually define themselves as new Labour.  Mr Corbyn is the only person to speak out against the austerity measures, which beggars my belief given the myriad independent economists who have clearly stated how austerity is damaging in the long-term, and given how it is not working and has led to an increase in wealth for the top and a reduction at the bottom (a group which is ever-growing as more people are added to the numbers):

Scary, scary, scary - and getting worse.

Scary, scary, scary – and getting worse.

More statistics, if you want to be even more depressed by them, are available here: https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/scale-economic-inequality-uk.

As early as 2012, the IMF was stating it may have been wrong about austerity and the damage such measures would cause.

But that’s okay, because the Tories just redefined poverty so it doesn’t exist anymore and they are killing all the disabled and homeless so that’ll keep the statistics down… Ooops, digression.  Apologies.  Back to the topic in hand.

The Labour Party was formed to represent the political views and social needs of the working classes, who have always been and continue to be the vast majority of people in this country.  From the Labour Party’s own website:

The Labour Party was created in 1900: a new party for a new century. Its formation was the result of many years of hard effort by working people, trade unionists and socialists, united by the goal of changing the British Parliament to represent the interests of everybody. Ignored by the Tories and disillusioned with the Liberals, a coalition of different interests came together to push for change at a Conference on Labour Representation in London’s Memorial Hall in February 1900.”

It is worth pointing out this was before all working class men and women as a whole gender group had the right to vote; statistically the working class and women are more likely to vote left-wing as are those who identify as BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic).  It was not until 1924 that the first Labour government was formed.

Over the years, the ideal of aspiration has increasingly led to a deification of capitalism and status-symbol flaunting.  Society has become judged by and judging of what people have instead of what people do.  This is contrary to left-wing, and in particular socialist, politics which values the person over the profit and the purchase.

Unfortunately, the desire to win coupled with the demonisation of the Labour Party by the media (who, let’s not forget, are headed by Capitalists; after all that IS the reason d’etre of the media, to make money) means the general public never received objective electoral information.  The Party subsequently pandered to the media, and the New Labour movement under Blair has slowly been moving the Labour Party to the right so that now calling them Diet Tory (as I do) is no longer a joke but a sad fact of life.  They have themselves turned against the Unions who formed the party and are the backbone of the support and funding they receive; out of the four leadership candidates there is only one who is not continuing this decline.

The Green Party is, at this moment in time, the only true left-leaning party of the people, and it took me a while to get over the feeling I was being unfaithful to them.  I know many people don’t have the opportunity to vote Green, and Labour is the only alternative they have so it is important that Labour is able to represent them.

Green being the only left-leaning party could actually change, in reality.  There is a very real chance, if Jeremy Corbyn is elected Leader of the Labour Party, the party will return to its roots and to its core supporters.  It will become representative of the left of the country, and it will became a real opposition party instead of one of abstentions and pandering to the bankers/corporations.  Anyone under the age of 35 has never had the chance to vote for a pre-New Labour Party; this is the first time these beliefs, ideals, policies and people have had the opportunity to have their voice heard by a party which may actually have a chance at winning the election.

The massive increase in turnout and votes the Green Party received in May 2015 showed clearly that there is an appetite for left-wing ideas and policies.  Under Proportional Representation there would have been a slight left-wing majority in the Houses of Parliament… I digress again.  Sorry.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only anti-austerity candidate.  He is the only one who spoke up for the strikers in the recent Tube Strikes that hit London.  He was one of only 48 Labour MPs who voted against the recent Austerity Bill rather than abstain (how is abstaining opposing?  Should we perhaps send all Labour MPs a dictionary for Christmas?).  There has been a massive increase in registered members of the Labour Party, including me, as a direct result of Mr Corbyn’s standing as a candidate for Leader of the party yet confusingly the Labour Party has stated they don’t think he would be a leader who would win.  I do not understand how increase in support for the Labour Party equates to less votes, but then that is a view being expressed by people who support austerity against the advice of economists so I’m not sure I would trust their maths skills anyway.

If Jeremy Corbyn does not win the leadership battle, and we are left with a continuation of New Labour then I will be holding a funeral and wake for the death of the Labour Party.  It will not only have betrayed its roots and its reason for being, but will have committed suicide on the strength of an insane belief that right wing voters will somehow vote for Labour instead of Tory, UKIP or even Lib Dem (especially now they have a very conservative Christian leader).

Greens could work with Labour (I can but dream), but only if Jeremy Corbyn wins.  Gosh, I hope it happens.  By the way, if anyone is interested, Stella Creasy would be wonderful as Deputy Leader working alongside Jeremy Corbyn. Just sayin’…

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party; I hope!

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, I hope!

C*!T – NSFW (does not contain nuts)

It appears from myriad social media posts appearing in my news feed that one of the most popular signs from the Anti-Austerity Cuts March on Saturday 20th June in central London is this one:

Bet this took a great deal of thought to create.

Bet this took a great deal of thought to create – because sexism is okay if it is in a good cause.

{deep sigh}

Every time I see an insult against the worst of the worst, be it David CaMoron, George Osborne (for whom no word could possibly be a suitably bad descriptor), Ian Dunkedin-Shit, Ziegheil Gove, Jeremy Hunt (not rhyming slang), Maria Miller (or any other Minister for Equality appointed in the previous Cabinet), the terrorist/s of the moment, the entire [insert name of country here] government, or any individual or group who have committed acts of atrocities or slightly pissed someone off, in the vast majority of cases cunt is the word that is chosen to emphasise the anger/distaste/whatever of the object of the insult.  Cunt is plastered across social media or across mass media or in public demonstration as the worst possible descriptor, the most shocking and provocative insult to use.

Whenever I have objected, the most common argument I come across is this one (I am cutting and pasting the exact quote from the latest in a long line of people to argue with me), “so either you are for the censorship of words that are used as swear words or you actually see that no deliberate slur to women’s sexual parts was intended or that it was implied that women are solely to blame for the ideology of the Tories (although some obviously are). If you don’t like the word cunt being used as a swear word then I can understand that you simply don’t like it, but to try to turn it into something other than was intended is disingenuous

{another, deeper sigh}

Cunt is a gendered word*.  Whether the intent behind the use of the word is gendered or not, that is irrelevant.  Once it is used on social media it is out there.  To presume that the intent behind the words is exactly the same as how you, as an individual, perceive it and that everyone perceives it that way is disingenuous at the very least.  I will ignore the fact the cut-and-paste quote totally straw-manned my argument by bringing up censorship and reference to implications regarding female responsibility.  The point made is reductive and ignores the context of the sign and word.  In this case, the argument came from a white middle-aged male, but it not a point exclusively argued by men.  Women can be a part of maintaining patriarchal hegemony too.  It is mostly men who argue it with me though.

If google says it, it must be true!

If google says it, it must be true!

When you ask google for a definition of cunt, this is what you get, in order and without separation because both meanings can and will be applied any time the term is used.

Laurie Penny, a woman I admire, has written about reclaiming the word and using it to empower ourselves but as long as we live in a world where the power lies with patriarchy using the word as the worst insult you can think of on social media (which, don’t forget, crosses international boundaries and has a far bigger impact that you may realise**), where you cannot possibly have full understanding of every single person who will read and use the term, it will continue to perpetuate the idea that the female genitalia is dirty, wrong, to be belittled and through this, female sexuality and body image is disempowered and made dirty.

We live in a society where adverts for sanitary towels and tampons cannot use the colour red to represent menstruation for fucks sake!  Where such products are taxed as ‘luxury items’.  Where the idea of moon cups or recycled period cloths are somehow dirty, disgusting and only for hippies who live on the fringes of society.  Where the mention of periods or female body parts is either instantly sexualised or instantly disgusting.

I do not object to the use of the word ‘cunt’.  I think it is a beautiful word; guttural, easy to spit out with venom or humour, short, to the point and describes the centre of the female (cisgender/post-transition transgender for some) body.  It describes a varied, strong, elastic fount of human birth and growth, not that you’d know it from mainstream raunch and porn culture and the rise in vaginaplasties for cosmetic rather than health reasons; the designer vagina.

See how varied they are in shape simply from the external view – you won’t get taught this in school sex ed (probably, I’m old, it’s been a while):

The Great Wall of Vagina by Jamie McCartney, 2013

The Great Wall of Vagina by Jamie McCartney, 2013

I object to the use of cunt as the most offensive, shocking and vulgar insult that can be thought of, and most definitely object to the fallacious and disingenuous argument that because it wasn’t meant as a gendered insult, it shouldn’t be taken as one.  It’s a gendered word, therefore the insult is inherently gendered whether you meant it that way or not.  It may be losing its strength over time, and many now perceive it on the same level as ‘dick’, ‘arse’ or ‘shit’, but if this is really true, why is it the word that is used the most in insults when the invective is intended to be most forceful?  Why is it not ‘arse’ or ‘shit’ that is chosen instead, neither being gendered?

There is a history to the use of the word that ties into the inherent dominance of masculine culture – to call a man a cunt is to feminise him and denigrate him as a result.  It is the ultimate in patriarchal verbal oppression, both of women as an amorphous whole and the man as an individual.  It says that to be feminine is to be lesser, ineffectual and wrong.

I expect someone to counter with a history of the origin of the word ‘cunt’ at some point, but I am talking about the context in which we are currently living.  Cunt has a fine, rich history in which it has not always been such a gross insult, and there are many different root sources of the word.  However, that is not the case for the use of the word at this current time and in the context I am referring to.

When used in the context of a group of friends who know each other well and know how such a use is intended, I don’t object to the use.  Context is what I am talking about and I do bang on about it quite a lot.  I am talking about social media, or mass protest, or any context in which you cannot know how it will be perceived whatever the intent of the use may be.  I am so tired of arguing this point over and over, but I will keep doing so.  As long as patriarchy exists, as long as it hurts people by oppressing them, I will keep doing so.  I really, really wish I didn’t have to.

As for the protest; well I think this banner said more and said it far better:

If this doesn't tell you why the government are arses, nothing will.

If this doesn’t tell you why the government are arses, nothing will.

*http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/cunt
*http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cunt
*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cunt
*http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cunt
*https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Cunt

**http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/7059/why-is-cnt-so-much-more-derogatory-in-the-us-than-the-uk

BIGOTRY IS NOT A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION

Recent tragic events in Charleston in which Dylann Roof is alleged to have murdered nine people attending services at the Emanuel African Episcopalean Church (known as Mother Emanuel to its attendees and the community) has led to many stating the accused clearly suffers from a mental health condition to have acted in this violent manner.  I use alleged as the court case has yet to occur.

I say NO.  Bigotry is not a result of a mental health condition.  Bigotry results from the daily indoctrination of white privilege (or male privilege, or able-bodied privilege, or cisgender privilege, or any other form of systemic privilege).  It results from the belief that one more entitled than another based on an arbitrary social identifying factor.

Bigotry writ large on his clothing.

The accused shooter.

Dylann Roof may well have mental health issues which may well have caused him to act out the way he did, but his prejudice, clearly documented in this picture in which he is wearing the flag of apartheid South Africa (top badge) and the flag of white supremacist Rhodesia of 1968-1979 (now Zimbabwe; bottom badge), shows a racist ideology that is deeply ingrained in him.

Conflation of the ideology of racism with a mental health condition is dangerous.  Racism is a learned behaviour and the terror attack in Charleston is indicative of an endemic racism inculcated within society.

Murdered because of Racism.

Murdered because of Racism.

Remember the victims of this shooting:

  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)
  • Clementa Pinckney (41)
  • Cynthia Hurd (54)
  • Tywanza Sanders (26)
  • Myra Thompson (59)
  • Ethel Lance (70)
  • Daniel L. Simmons (74)
  • Susie Jackson (87)
  • DePayne Doctor (49)

Real people murdered by racism.  Nine names on an ever-growing roll call too long already.

It’s funny how the excuse of a ‘mental health condition’ arises when it is a white (usually male) person who has committed the terror act.  The same excusing and assertion of mental health issues happened when Elliot Rodgers killed six men and women and sent a further seven to hospital, despite a misogynistic 135+ page thesis clearly stating his extremist sexism and violent intentions which he posted online along with several YouTube videos.  It’s an excuse deliberately used to perpetuate privilege and deny the endemic problem.

If we don’t name a behaviour and really try to amend and change the attitudes of the privileged and the ingrained nature of prejudice within our societies, this will keep happening. If we don’t stop valuing violence and aggression as a masculine ideal then this will keep happening. To deny it and try to pin it on mental health conditions is dangerous, and frankly offensive to anyone with a mental health condition.

By saying bigots who act out in violent ways are suffering a mental health condition we are ‘othering’ this kind of behaviour, ignoring it and denying it occurs as a result of the environment in which people are raised.  Saying that Roof’s behaviour is ‘not normal’ and must therefore be a mental health problem is just another way of saying #notallmen, or #notallwhitepeople.

This attack was the result of a lifetime of endemic indoctrination of racist ideology. It was not a mental abnormality (as I have read in online comments) any more than being, say, politically left wing or having a religious faith is.  Denial denies the root causes of such ideologies and actions, and means it becomes removed from us and it is that much easier to maintain the privilege that benefit those not discriminated against.

Bigotry is inherently violent, mentally, emotionally and physically.  If we need an analogy, it would be closer to say it resembles an abusive relationship in which privilege plays the dominating role inflicting terror on the discriminated-against partner.  The threat of bigoted attack remains at all times.  It is a terrorist act.  Systemic bigotry is a terrorist act.  Time to call it what it is.

The Caitlyn Jenner Effect

Debuting Ms Caitlyn Jenner

Debuting Ms Caitlyn Jenner

No-one can have failed to notice the latest Cardassian Kardashian-related news item being splashed all over the first world media; the transition of Jessica Lange Caitlyn Jenner.  I tend to avoid all Cardassian Kardashian crap as much as possible, not being a fan of celebrity culture and the false idols thus raised up based on the crumbling pedestals of white, heteronormative, cisgender, able-bodied wealth and status.  However, Ms Jenner is taking a huge personal step and is allowing the public in to understand the process and the life of a transgender person going through transition.

As predicted, FOX News misgenders Ms Jenner all over the place, even quoting her words within the interview as having been said by ‘Bruce Jenner’ and stating Bruce Jenner is debuting Caitlyn Jenner.  No, FOX, you linguistically transphobic morons, Caitlyn Jenner is debuting Caitlyn Jenner.

Much of the press coverage has been supportive, and this in itself reflects great strides in social evolution.  It is worth noting that this only happened after a sporting hero (I do not gender the word) who was well known and conforms to all other privileged identity markers took this step.  Perhaps this makes it easier for those who would normally turn in disgust to open themselves up to.  If it changes minds, it’s a good if miniscule step.

That does not mean that violence towards transgender people, misunderstandings (to put it politely), misgendering, ‘tranny’ jokes in sitcoms etc. (how often have you seen the old trope that a tall and/or larger woman is mistaken for a man, or a man has ‘accidentally’ snogged a ‘man’, for example?  Even in wonderful sitcoms such as Miranda *sigh*), and either ignorant or deliberate transphobia is going to disappear overnight.  Last year there were significantly more violent attacks against transgender people than in the whole of 2013.  The suicide rate for transgender people, particularly the young coming to terms with their identity, is far higher than the average.

In the UK we had a transgender character on one of the biggest soap operas in the country, Coronation Street, the wonderful Hayley Cropper (still missed).  A m-t-f post-transition transgender character, who was played by a cisgender woman.  I do not know why a transgender actor was not chosen to play the part; I am guessing that gender identity was not a question asked in the audition.  I for one think that they should have asked transgender actors to apply; affirmative action is something I support.  After all, what is discrimination if not affirmative action for those already in the position of privilege?

The United States has openly transgender women in highly successful roles, people such as Janet Mock and Laverne Cox.  They remain the exception, though.  I am struggling to think of any high-profile transgender people in the United Kingdom, other than Labour party MP candidate Emily Brothers with whom I have been lucky enough to briefly meet and discuss politics, and Lauren Harries, famous for appearing as a child on various daytime shows as an antiques expert.  All women.  I cannot think of any transgender men in the spotlight; whether that be through fear of transphobic ridicule in the reaction or because there simply aren’t any due to discrimination I do not know.  It may be the patriarchal male gaze which chooses to objectify women and the transgender identity adds an extra level of prurience (and I’m grimacing in disgust at the vileness of such an action).

It will be a wonderful day when everyone who is transgender is simply accepted and supported through their transition, however much and however far they wish it to be, whether they identify as male/female/genderqueer/pangendered or agendered.

So I am hopeful that the Caitlyn Jenner effect will be to push back the boundaries limiting those who are transgender.  There is so much more to transgender identity than simply gender; only someone who is transgender can relate and really understand.  I hope that the Caitlyn Jenner effect will be for all cisgender people to sit down, shut up and listen.  Really listen.  Then understand and stop with the transphobic idiocy.  If you feel threatened by anyone who is transgender, then recognise that it is your problem and get help for it.

If only one positive comes out of the Caitlyn Jenner effect, then I hope that it is to wipe transphobia out.  I trust that you are all with me.

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